His Grizzlies had to battle through a challenging regular season, winning their way into the playoffs via the play-in tournament. They took down the San Antonio Spurs in the first leg before vanquishing the Golden State Warriors in the play-in finale, all for the right to play the top-seeded Utah Jazz in the annual 1 vs 8 first-round bloodbath.
Ja Morant is taking the NBA playoffs by storm for the Memphis Grizzlies
This matchup hasn’t turned out to be a bloodbath after all, however. In fact, the Grizzlies took Game 1 off the Jazz in Salt Lake City by a 112-109 margin. Of course, Donovan Mitchell’s absence helped them out a bit, but the Grizzlies took advantage of the opportunity to get a win over a wounded foe.
Morant scored 26 points in his NBA playoff debut and he looked like a veteran with multiple appearances under his belt. It doesn’t hurt that something like 30 percent of the Grizzlies’ games in his career have been effectively playoff games, must-wins for a team that desperately wants to win and compete for whatever it can.
A year ago these Memphis Grizzlies battled injuries and adversity to end up in the NBA’s inaugural play-in tournament, ultimately vanquished by the Portland Trail Blazers. This season, once again, with no room for error and players like Brandon Clarke, Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson Jr. all out for much of the season, Morant led this team to the play-in and into the playoffs proper.
This critical experience led him to a Game 2 offensive explosion. Morant’s debut was excellent, but in Game 2 he affirmed himself as one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NBA with a spectacular 47-point performance in a high-scoring 141-112 loss to the Jazz. At just 21 years old, he was the fourth-youngest player in NBA history to score 40+ in a playoff game, behind only Magic Johnson, LeBron James and Luka Doncic.
That’s lofty company indeed.
The Grizzlies couldn’t come up with a win in Game 2, but he made it clear that he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with for a very long time in the NBA playoffs.
With Donovan Mitchell back for the Utah Jazz after a 40-day absence, they look to be clearly in the driver’s seat, even as the series shifts to Memphis for Games 3 and 4. The series is a 1-1 draw after two games, but the Memphis Grizzlies have a monstrous uphill battle in front of them if they have any hope of winning more games against the Jazz, let alone taking this series off of them.
Ja Morant has been nothing but heroic throughout his two-year career so far, but it’s going to take heroism unlike anything we’ve seen before in order to pull that off.
Can he do it? We’ll find out soon. Game 3 tips off on Saturday, May 29th, at 9:30 PM EST.